The Fear of Monkeys - The Best E-Zine on the Web for Politically Conscious WritingThe Andean Night Monkey - Issue Eight
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The Andean Night Monkey, photo from Christian ArtusoThe Andean Night Monkey Night monkeys are found in the Andes range throughout South America. Night monkeys inhabit evergreen tropical rainforests and deciduous scrub forests, as well as habitat along rivers. They prefer dense middle-level canopies and understories with tangled vines that provide cover for sleeping sites. They also like hollows in old trees (Note the photo). Night monkeys eat mainly fruits, but also consume leaves, flowers, insects, tree frogs, spiders, bats, birds, and eggs. They forage for food at all levels of the forest, from the canopy down to the forest floor. Night monkeys are hunted for their meat and fur by native people and poachers and are sold as pets and used for medical research. The IUCN lists the Andean night monkey as Vulnerable, facing a high risk of extinction in the wild, because of small populations and habitat destruction from deforestation.


The Missing Commandment


Ted Scott

I was looking around for a Bible. I wanted to do some research on morality. But not finding a Bible in the stacks or the shelves of books in our house, I did the next best thing: I went to Wikipedia. I wanted to find out the full content of the "Ten Commandments." I had been watching the news on Gaza, and I wondered what God would have to say about it. But when I went looking for the "Commandments," I discovered that there were a lot of different versions, some very similar, and some a good deal different from what I remembered. It depends a lot on which brand of religion you observe. For me, since I am a kind of generic atheist with more faith in Physics than most other things, I found it fascinating to compare the varieties of Commandments celebrated by the American big three: that is Christian, Jewish, and Muslim. I discovered that even between Christians there were differences, sort of like differences in car models from the same manufacturer.

I was looking to see if God had any rules for asymmetric conflict. We seem to have a lot of that these days, where the opponents use completely different weapons and tactics. But what I found was that either God hadn't made up his mind on that topic, or somehow it had inadvertently been left out of the rulebook. In fact, most of the rules seemed to be about person-to-person relations and person-to-God relations. I guess that's understandable, since religions don't seem to have "parties," like you find in "democratic" states. If there are groups in a religion with differing opinions on God's word, they usually split, or the stronger side banishes the weaker. And it's not always peaceful.

Among the person-to-person relationships there was one Commandment which seemed to deal with an asymmetric situation. That was either #4 or #5 depending which model of Judeo Christianity you chose. It states "Thou shalt honor thy father and mother." Thus, it is a Commandment that applies to the behavior of children. I looked for the other side of that Commandment, where it would say something like "Thou shalt not abuse thy children," but I couldn't find it. I wondered if it had been in the earlier versions of the "rulebook," so using my new Bible technology, I decided to research some more primary sources, like the Torah and the Koran. Of course since I couldn't read the originals, I had to rely on summaries and interpretations with lots of footnotes. I came to understand that both the Torah and the Koran have groups of ten rules that roughly parallel the Old Testament Christian Commandments, but these rules are not regarded as special or superior to the many other rules included in the rulebooks. In fact, I found a list of the 613 Commandments or Mitzvot as they are called, from the Torah, but I left that research for when I had more time. I found an interesting result in the ten rules in the Koran that roughly parallel the Bible's Commandments. Two of these, #4 and #7, specifically speak to the treatment of children, and I would not be surprised if I found something like these in the Torah:

#4 Do not engage in 'mercy killings' for fear of starvation: Kill not your children for fear of want: We shall provide sustenance for them as well as for you. Verily the killing of them is a great sin. (17:31)

#7 Care for orphaned children: Come not nigh to the orphan's property except to improve it, until he attains the age of full strength. (17:34)

What I was looking for was some statement with some religious backing that might set some appropriate limit to the punishment that a powerful country like our own could apply to a weak country like Iraq or Afghanistan, or in the other case that comes to mind, that of Israel and Gaza. Perhaps the relationship between parent and child could be used metaphorically to make this case in a religious/moral way.

When I researched the secular side of "Morality," I found a United Nations version:

The principle of proportionality has been enshrined in treaties regulating warfare's conduct since the Hague Convention of 1907, although the U.S. and Israel have refused to adapt the revised version of 1977. (from The Economist, Dec 30, 2008)

And this,

On the grounds for going to war, jus ad bellum, the cause must be important enough to justify force; any good that will follow must outweigh the inevitable pain and destruction. In the conduct of war, jus in bello, any action must weigh the military gain against the likely harm to civilians. (ibid)

So, where does that leave us? Well, I guess the U. N. is a little more concerned with international relations than God is, but there's still a lot of ambiguity in these rather vague statements from the Hague Conventions.

I can see that this is going to be a longer term project.

Ted Scott is a retired physics teacher living in western Massachusetts. He has been published recently in the Tenth Anniversary Anthology of WRITE ACTION and online at He can be reached at ted_scott99[kill_spam] (To email remove the [kill_spam])
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